A kaleidoscope of colours hangs above the giant structures of the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. The scene is a mixture of a red sunset, the hazy zodiacal light and the pearlescent pinks of star-forming regions in our own Milky Way Galaxy.
The zodiacal light, seen rising up out of the reddish-orange sunset, is formed of scattered sunlight from dust particles present in the plane of the ecliptic, spread thinly across the space between the planets in the inner Solar System. It shines over the bright red supergiant star, Antares, in the constellation Scorpius, above which is the stellar band of the Milky Way, riven by dark dust lanes.
The telescopes pictured are one of the eight metre components of the Very Large Telescope (which comprises four eight-metre telescopes in total) on the right, and three of four 1.8-metre ‘Auxiliary Telescopes’ that support the eight metre telescopes when they are combined as one giant telescope, in a process known as interferometry.